One of the most important figures in the modern feminist movement
"Gloria Steinem is an American feminist, journalist, and social political activist who became nationally recognized as a leader and a spokeswoman for the American feminist movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. [Steinem attended Smith College].
Steinem was a columnist for New York magazine, and a co-founder of Ms. magazine. In 1969, Steinem published an article, "After Black Power, Women's Liberation", which brought her to national fame as a feminist leader.
In 2005, Steinem, Jane Fonda, and Robin Morgan co-founded the Women's Media Center, an organization that works "to make women visible and powerful in the media".
Steinem currently travels internationally as an organizer and lecturer, and is a media spokeswoman on issues of equality…
Esquire magazine features editor Clay Felker gave freelance writer Steinem what she later called her first "serious assignment", regarding contraception; he didn't like her first draft and had her re-write the article. Her resulting 1962 article about the way in which women are forced to choose between a career and marriage preceded Betty Friedan's book The Feminine Mystique by one year.
In 1963, while working on an article for Huntington Hartford's Show magazine, Steinem was employed as a Playboy Bunny at the New York Playboy Club. The article, published in 1963 as "A Bunny's Tale", featured a photo of Steinem in Bunny uniform and detailed how women were treated at those clubs. Steinem has maintained that she is proud of the work she did publicizing the exploitative working conditions of the bunnies and especially the sexual demands made of them, which skirted the edge of the law. However, for a brief period after the article was published, Steinem was unable to land other assignments; in her words, this was "because I had now become a Bunny – and it didn't matter why."
In the interim, she conducted an interview with John Lennon for Cosmopolitan magazine in 1964. In 1965, she wrote for NBC-TV's weekly satirical revue, That Was The Week That Was (TW3), contributing a regular segment entitled "Surrealism in Everyday Life". Steinem eventually landed a job at Felker's newly founded New York magazine in 1968.
In 1969, she covered an abortion speak-out for New York Magazine, which was held in a church basement in Greenwich, New York. Steinem had had an abortion herself in London at the age of 22. She felt what she called a "big click" at the speak-out, and later said she didn't "begin my life as an active feminist" until that day. As she recalled, "It [abortion] is supposed to make us a bad person. But I must say, I never felt that. I used to sit and try and figure out how old the child would be, trying to make myself feel guilty. But I never could! I think the person who said: 'Honey, if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament' was right. Speaking for myself, I knew it was the first time I had taken responsibility for my own life. I wasn't going to let things happen to me. I was going to direct my life, and therefore it felt positive. But still, I didn't tell anyone. Because I knew that out there it wasn't [positive]." She also said, "In later years, if I'm remembered at all it will be for inventing a phrase like 'reproductive freedom' ... as a phrase it includes the freedom to have children or not to. So it makes it possible for us to make a coalition."
In 1972, she co-founded the feminist-themed magazine Ms. with Dorothy Pitman Hughes; it began as a special edition of New York, and Clay Felker funded the first issue. Its 300,000 test copies sold out nationwide in eight days. Within weeks, Ms. had received 26,000 subscription orders and over 20,000 reader letters. The magazine was sold to the Feminist Majority Foundation in 2001; Steinem remains on the masthead as one of six founding editors and serves on the advisory board.
Also in 1972, Steinem became the first woman to speak at the National Press Club.
In 1978, Steinem wrote a semi-satirical essay for Cosmopolitan titled "If Men Could Menstruate" in which she imagined a world where men menstruate instead of women. She concludes in the essay that in such a world, menstruation would become a badge of honor with men comparing their relative sufferings, rather than the source of shame that it had been for women.
On March 22, 1998, Steinem published an op-ed in The New York Times ("Feminists and the Clinton Question") in which, without actually challenging accounts by Bill Clinton's accusers, she claimed they did not represent sexual harassment. This was criticized by various writers, as in the Harvard Crimson and in the Times itself. The original item has since been scrubbed from the NY Times archives, as can be verified by searching for it (https://www.nytimes.com/1998/03/22/opinion/feminists-and-the-clinton-question.html) and as noted by Nathan Dial, who reposted it on Scribd with the comment: "the fact that it's not on the NYT's page is disturbing."...
In 1959, Steinem led a group of activists in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to organize the Independent Service for Information on the Vienna festival, to advocate for American participation in the World Youth Festival, a Soviet-sponsored youth event.
In 1968, Steinem signed the "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.
In 1969, she published an article, "After Black Power, Women's Liberation" which brought her to national fame as a feminist leader. As such she campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in its favor in 1970. That same year she published her essay on a utopia of gender equality, "What It Would Be Like If Women Win", in Time magazine.
On July 10, 1971, Steinem was one of over three hundred women who founded the National Women's Political Caucus (NWPC), including such notables as Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm, and Myrlie Evers-Williams. As a co-convener of the Caucus, she delivered the speech "Address to the Women of America", stating in part:
This is no simple reform. It really is a revolution. Sex and race because they are easy and visible differences have been the primary ways of organizing human beings into superior and inferior groups and into the cheap labor on which this system still depends. We are talking about a society in which there will be no roles other than those chosen or those earned. We are really talking about humanism.
In 1972, she ran as a delegate for Shirley Chisholm in New York, but lost.
In March 1973, she addressed the first national conference of Stewardesses for Women's Rights, which she continued to support throughout its existence. Stewardesses for Women's Rights folded in the spring of 1976.
Steinem, who grew up reading Wonder Woman comics, was also a key player in the restoration of Wonder Woman's powers and traditional costume, which were restored in issue #204 (January–February 1973). Steinem, offended that the most famous female superhero had been depowered, had placed Wonder Woman (in costume) on the cover of the first issue of Ms. (1972) – Warner Communications, DC Comics' owner, was an investor – which also contained an appreciative essay about the character.
In 1976, the first women-only Passover seder was held in Esther M. Broner's New York City apartment and led by Broner, with 13 women attending, including Steinem.
In 1977, Steinem became an associate of the Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press (WIFP). WIFP is an American nonprofit publishing organization. The organization works to increase communication between women and connect the public with forms of women-based media.
In 1984 Steinem was arrested along with a number of members of Congress and civil rights activists for disorderly conduct outside the South African embassy while protesting against the South African apartheid system.
At the outset of the Gulf War in 1991, Steinem, along with prominent feminists Robin Morgan and Kate Millett, publicly opposed an incursion into the Middle East and asserted that ostensible goal of "defending democracy" was a pretense.
During the Clarence Thomas sexual harassment scandal in 1991, Steinem voiced strong support for Anita Hill and suggested that one day Hill herself would sit on the Supreme Court.
In 1992, Steinem co-founded Choice USA, a non-profit organization that mobilizes and provides ongoing support to a younger generation that lobbies for reproductive choice.
In 1993 Steinem co-produced and narrated an Emmy Award-winning TV documentary for HBO about child abuse, called, "Multiple Personalities: The Search for Deadly Memories." Also in 1993, she and Rosilyn Heller co-produced an original TV movie for Lifetime, "Better Off Dead," which examined the parallel forces that both oppose abortion and support the death penalty.
She contributed the piece "The Media and the Movement: A User's Guide" to the 2003 anthology Sisterhood Is Forever: The Women's Anthology for a New Millennium, edited by Robin Morgan.
On June 1, 2013, Steinem performed on stage at the "Chime For Change: The Sound Of Change Live" Concert at Twickenham Stadium in London, England. Later in 2014, UN Women began its commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, and as part of that campaign Steinem (and others) spoke at the Apollo Theater in New York City. Chime For Change was funded by Gucci, focusing on using innovative approaches to raise funds and awareness especially regarding girls and women.
Steinem has stated, "I think the fact that I've become a symbol for the women's movement is somewhat accidental. A woman member of Congress, for example, might be identified as a member of Congress; it doesn't mean she's any less of a feminist but she's identified by her nearest male analog. Well, I don't have a male analog so the press has to identify me with the movement. I suppose I could be referred to as a journalist, but because Ms. is part of a movement and not just a typical magazine, I'm more likely to be identified with the movement. There's no other slot to put me in."
Contrary to popular belief, Steinem did not coin the feminist slogan "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." Although she helped popularize it, the phrase is actually attributable to Irina Dunn. When Time magazine published an article attributing the saying to Steinem, Steinem wrote a letter saying the phrase had been coined by Dunn.
Another phrase sometimes wrongly attributed to Steinem is, "If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament." Steinem herself attributed it to "an old Irish woman taxi driver in Boston," whom she said she and Florynce Kennedy met.
As for 2015, she joined the thirty leading international women peacemakers and became an honorary co-chairwoman of 2015 Women's Walk For Peace In Korea with Mairead Maguire. The group's main goal is to advocate disarmament and seek Korea's reunification. It will be holding international peace symposiums both in Pyongyang and Seoul in which women from both North Korea and South Korea can share experiences and ideas of mobilizing women to stop the Korean crisis. The group's specific hope is to walk across the 2-mile wide Korean Demilitarized Zone that separates North Korea and South Korea which is meant to be a symbolic action taken for peace in the Korean peninsular suffering for 70 years after its division at the end of World War II. It is especially believed that the role of women in this act would help and support the reunification of family members divided by the split prolonged for 70 years…
Although most frequently considered a liberal feminist, Steinem has repeatedly characterized herself as a radical feminist. More importantly, she has repudiated categorization within feminism as "nonconstructive to specific problems," saying: "I've turned up in every category. So it makes it harder for me to take the divisions with great seriousness." Nevertheless, on concrete issues, Steinem has staked several firm positions.
In 1979, Steinem wrote the article on female genital mutilation that brought it into the American public's consciousness; the article, "The International Crime of Female Genital Mutilation," was published in the March 1979 issue of Ms.. The article reported on the "75 million women suffering with the results of genital mutilation." According to Steinem, "The real reasons for genital mutilation can only be understood in the context of the patriarchy: men must control women's bodies as the means of production, and thus repress the independent power of women's sexuality." Steinem's article contains the basic arguments that would later be developed by philosopher Martha Nussbaum.
On male circumcision, she commented, "These patriarchal controls limit men's sexuality too ... That's why men are asked symbolically to submit the sexual part of themselves and their sons to patriarchal authority, which seems to be the origin of male circumcision, a practice that, even as advocates admit, is medically unnecessary 90% of the time. Speaking for myself, I stand with many brothers in eliminating that practice too."
Steinem has frequently voiced her disapproval of the obscurantism and abstractions some claim to be prevalent in feminist academic theorizing. She said, "Nobody cares about feminist academic writing. That's careerism. These poor women in academia have to talk this silly language that nobody can understand in order to be accepted ... But I recognize the fact that we have this ridiculous system of tenure, that the whole thrust of academia is one that values education, in my opinion, in inverse ratio to its usefulness—and what you write in inverse relationship to its understandability." Steinem later singled out deconstructionists like Judith Butler for criticism, saying, "I always wanted to put a sign up on the road to Yale saying, 'Beware: Deconstruction Ahead'. Academics are forced to write in language no one can understand so that they get tenure. They have to say 'discourse', not 'talk'. Knowledge that is not accessible is not helpful. It becomes aeralised."
Steinem has criticized pornography, which she distinguishes from erotica, writing: "Erotica is as different from pornography as love is from rape, as dignity is from humiliation, as partnership is from slavery, as pleasure is from pain." Steinem's argument hinges on the distinction between reciprocity versus domination, as she writes, "Blatant or subtle, pornography involves no equal power or mutuality. In fact, much of the tension and drama comes from the clear idea that one person is dominating the other."
On the issue of same-sex pornography, Steinem asserts, "Whatever the gender of the participants, all pornography including male-male gay pornography is an imitation of the male-female, conqueror-victim paradigm, and almost all of it actually portrays or implies enslaved women and master." Steinem has also cited "snuff films" as a serious threat to women.
In an essay published in Time magazine on August 31, 1970, "What Would It Be Like If Women Win," Steinem wrote about same-sex marriage in the context of the "Utopian" future she envisioned, writing:
What will exist is a variety of alternative life-styles. Since the population explosion dictates that childbearing be kept to a minimum, parents-and-children will be only one of many "families": couples, age groups, working groups, mixed communes, blood-related clans, class groups, creative groups. Single women will have the right to stay single without ridicule, without the attitudes now betrayed by "spinster" and "bachelor." Lesbians or homosexuals will no longer be denied legally binding marriages, complete with mutual-support agreements and inheritance rights. Paradoxically, the number of homosexuals may get smaller. With fewer over-possessive mothers and fewer fathers who hold up an impossibly cruel or perfectionist idea of manhood, boys will be less likely to be denied or reject their identity as males.
Although Steinem did not mention or advocate same-sex marriage in any published works or interviews for more than three decades, she again expressed support for same-sex marriage in the early 2000s, stating in 2004 that "[the] idea that sexuality is only okay if it ends in reproduction oppresses women—whose health depends on separating sexuality from reproduction—as well as gay men and lesbians." Steinem is also a signatory of the 2008 manifesto, "Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision For All Our Families and Relationships", which advocates extending legal rights and privileges to a wide range of relationships, households, and families.
In 1977, Steinem expressed disapproval that the heavily publicized sex reassignment surgery of tennis player Renée Richards had been characterized as "a frightening instance of what feminism could lead to" or as "living proof that feminism isn't necessary." Steinem wrote, "At a minimum, it was a diversion from the widespread problems of sexual inequality." She also wrote that, while she supported the right of individuals to identify as they choose, she claimed that, in many cases, transsexuals "surgically mutilate their own bodies" in order to conform to a gender role that is inexorably tied to physical body parts. She concluded that "feminists are right to feel uncomfortable about the need for and uses of transsexualism." The article concluded with what became one of Steinem's most famous quotes: "If the shoe doesn't fit, must we change the foot?" Although clearly meant in the context of transsexuality, the quote is frequently mistaken as a general statement about feminism.
On October 2, 2013, Steinem clarified her remarks on transgender people in an op-ed for The Advocate, writing that critics failed to consider that her 1977 essay was "written in the context of global protests against routine surgical assaults, called female genital mutilation by some survivors." Steinem later in the piece expressed unequivocal support for transgender people, saying that transgender people "including those who have transitioned, are living out real, authentic lives. Those lives should be celebrated, not questioned." She also apologized for any pain her words might have caused." (1)